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USF-Villanova Big East Tournament First Round Preview

Good Morning V5ers! Tonight, your South Florida Bulls face off against the Villanova Wildcats in the first round of the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York. The game is scheduled for 7:00 PM, and the game will be televised nationally on ESPNU. If you can't watch the game, Jim Lighthall and Todd Kalas will take care of you on 1250 WHNZ.

This is definitely not the Villanova team we hung with for 30 minutes the last time we met in January. If you remember that contest, Corey Stokes and Dominic Cheek went a perfect 9-9 from distance as Nova pulled away midway through the second half for a 83-71 win. This was at the height of their powers: #7 in the country, a 13-1 overall record, and loading up for another long run in the NCAA tournament. They were a sleek roadster cruising down the highway, maybe all the way to Houston and the Final Four.

Then Dominic Cheek got hurt, Corey Stokes pulled his hamstring, and the handling started to go. Stokes picked up a turf toe injury, and the brakes cut out. We found out from coach Jay Wright that Corey Fisher is battling tendinitis in his knee, and Stokes reinjured his hamstring last Thursday. Now the wheels are off, and Nova's season is heading towards the barrier.

According to Wright, Stokes is a game-time decision Tuesday, and he has publicly stated he will err on the side of caution in order to not reaggravate the injury. Because of that, I think he's out of the game, so here's who will probably start for the Wildcats tonight:

G 6'2 Soph. Maalik Wayns (13.7 PTS/2.7 REB/4.6 AST/1.2 STL)

G 6'1 Sr. Corey Fisher (15.5 PTS/2.8 REB/4.8 AST/1.5 STL)

G 6'6" Soph. Dominic Cheek (5.8 PTS/3.6 REB)

F 6'8 1/2" Sr. Antonio Pena (10.0 PTS/7.3 REB/1.5 AST/1.0 STL)

C 6'10" Soph. Mouphtaou Yarou (8.6 REB/7.1 REB/1.0 BLK)


With Stokes most likely out, Nova's options off the bench are very slim. 6'7" Soph. Isaiah Armwood (2.6 PTS/3.8 REB) gives Coach Wright the ability to go big, and give one of his guards a rest. We will probably see that a lot tonight. 6'11" Soph. Maurice Sutton (2.5 PTS/2.3 REB) is mainly there as cover for Pena and Yarou, but don't be surprised if he gets some extended minutes if Stokes is out. At guard, 6'5" Fr. James Bell (2.7 PTS/1.3 REB) is there only if someone else gets hurt or if Villanova gets into foul trouble.

To be honest, I am really liking this matchup. Fisher can't explode to the lane, and has been relegated to being a jump shooter (not his strength). Maalik Wayns has been thrown into the fire as the primary option, and did well against Pitt, but I'm wondering if Heath will clog the lane defensively tonight. Villanova doesn't have many great three-point shooters other than Stokes and Cheek when he plays USF, so it might be a good time to play zone against these guys.

Villanova rarely runs any type of zone defense, so we should be able to find some room for Augustus Gilchrist, Ron Anderson Jr. and Jarrid Famous down low against them. Nova does foul a lot, so if Yarou or Pena get two quick ones, that might bode well for us. As long as we rebound well, and Shaun Noriega makes a couple baskets from deep, we will have more than a puncher's chance.

So what do I think will happen tonight? I think we pull it out. Villanova is looking towards the NCAAs next weekend, and if they have to bow out of this tournament early to get everyone healthy, so be it. Plus, I need at least one more Ducreux meme to get me through the offseason.

Three Predictions:

- Corey Stokes will NOT play.

- The announcers talk about St. John's at some point.

- We get our 10th win.